Clare and the Reasons admittedly faced a challenge with their third release KR-51—namely, how to stand out among the throng. (Come on, let’s face it—we’re all going, “Oh, nice–another girl-fronted European influenced experimental indie-pop band?”)
Thankfully, they rose to the challenge, at least in my opinion. Within the first few notes of the opening track, “The Lake,” I was hooked by the feathery, lilting sound of Clare Muldaur Manchon’s voice. I felt instantly that I would become a fan, along with a lot of other people.
For KR-51, Clare and the Reasons took an extended trip to Germany to write and record the record (the album title is the model of scooter they used to ride around Berlin). I think this was a really good move creatively speaking, because when I compare this record to their previous ones, there’s a definite expansion in the songwriting and the sound. While they’ve primarily hovered around the indie-folk classification in times past, for this album they explored more pop, rock, and experimental vibes, as if they were allowing their experiences to directly influence their sound. Add to that a little bit of retro, and the end result is a record that sounds less like a band looking for themselves, and more like an extended trip to Europe.
Now, from an artist development standpoint, this is the one thing that might hurt Clare and the Reasons more than it helps them. After all, this is a newer, relatively unknown band that should be honing its sound around this point in their collective career. Perhaps exploring so much new ground at this stage could be a tactical error in the eyes of some critics. But at the end of the day, the question is, did they make a record worth listening to? Did they make it interesting, and did they capture our attention? And the answer is a definite YES. I don’t know how this record will help define Clare and the Reasons for the future; I just know they have given me a reason to listen. I love the sounds on this record, from the tribal rhythms on “Bass Face” to the indie-rock guitar on “PS” to the banjo riffs on “Make Them Laugh” to the haunting lullabye-like “Magpie.” Very creative, very ethereal. The record takes me on a journey—just the journey they took to make the record.
I truly hope people “get” this band, because in my view they deserve to be heard. Whether or not this record is an anomaly in the timeline of Clare and the Reasons, KR-51 in itself is a great find.
ALBUM RATING: 4 Stars (out of five)